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EFAC Australia

Essentials

Kanishka Raffel chooses a favorite book

The Cross of Christ
John Stott
InterVarsity Press 1989
ISBN 9780851106748

The Cross of Christ was the first Christian book I owned other than the Bible. It is one of only two or three books that I re-read, either in whole or part, every year. It is well known and well loved for its thoroughgoing exposition of the meaning and significance of the work of the Lord Jesus in his death upon the Cross. The scriptural, historical and theological rigour of Stott’s articulation of the meaning of the cross is amply demonstrated in his gracious but exacting response to critiques of the evangelical doctrine of the atonement.

Stott affirms not only the centrality of the Cross for understanding Christianity, but the centrality of ‘satisfaction through substitution’ for understanding the Cross (page 159). Stott expounds the bible’s images of the atonement—propitiation, redemption, justification and reconciliation—and demonstrates how substitution is ‘the essence of each image and the heart of atonement itself’ (page 203).

He engages with historical and contemporary debates with typical generosity and resolute fidelity to Scripture. But the book is no mere textbook. It is steeped in reverent praise of the crucified and risen Lord who gave himself for his people. Part Four of the book, ‘Living Under the Cross’, is a manual for disciples who have been summoned to ‘take up your cross and follow’. Stott describes a life of joyful fellowship and service, generosity and forgiveness, endurance and hope; a life infused with the transforming power of the Cross of Christ. The book concludes with seven affirmations about the cross drawn from the Letter to the Galatians. One could hardly hope for a better seven day cycle of meditations on Christian life and service.

Kanishka Raffel is Rector of St Matthew’s Shenton Park, Perth.

Peter Brain chooses a favorite book

The Incomparable Christ
John Stott
InterVarsity Press 2001
ISBN 9780851114859

I consider it a great privilege to have been able to read books written by many gracious Christian leaders. John Stott is one, with the added privilege of having met and listened to him speak. Always the loving encourager and lucid expositor, his books and talks have nourished, shaped and helped me (in concert with so many) follow Christ.

Published in 2001, The Incomparable Christ is a record of Stott’s 2000 AD London lectures. I can remember reading it in early 2002 and being drawn to recognise in a fresh way how unique our Lord and Saviour is and being reminded just how privileged I am to have been called to trust, serve, preach and follow Him.

The book is essentially a New Testament overview of Jesus. Part I: The Original Jesus outlines ‘how the New Testament witnesses to Him’ while the final section, Part IV: The Eternal Jesus, is a superb exposé of the way Jesus challenges us today through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Sandwiched between are two fascinating and challenging sections. Part II: The Ecclesiastical Jesus shows how the church through the ages has presented Jesus and Part III: The Influential Jesus sets forth through the lives of thirteen Christians how Jesus has inspired so many from so many backgrounds and circumstances to give themselves in serving Him, thus making a difference in His name.

What we have is what we came to expect from Stott, a careful and incisive exposition of Scripture combined with challenging and insightful application. For me both were active in this book, helping to sharpen my understanding of Jesus and to lift my vision and move me to honour Him in my life and ministry. He wrote in the introduction ‘I send the book on its way, with the hope and prayer that many readers will acknowledge Jesus Christ as the proper object of our worship, witness and hope, and as deserving the description ‘incomparable’, for He has neither rivals nor peers.’

I am so grateful to God for John Stott’s testimony of Jesus’ supremacy, sufficiency and glory and for the legacy he has left us with in books such as this.

Peter Brain is the Bishop of Armidale and an EFAC Vice-President and NSW Chair.

Your Mind Matters. Here, in the title of one of his early and shorter books, John Stott captured an affirmation and a challenge. An affirmation and a challenge lived out in his own life. Life mattered, our mind mattered, indeed all God had gifted us mattered. Hence our mind was to be neither ignored nor idolised, but rather put to kingdom service. The title of the final chapter? ‘Acting on our knowledge.’ Yes, the discipleship challenge was to know God and God’s way in the world and to act on that knowledge.
Life mattered to John Stott and in the Bible he discovered the basics that both motivated and nurtured behaviour.
Bible teacher of the highest calibre I watched him engaging people in South America and here in Australia.
Basic Christianity was just that; a treasure of the basics of following Jesus.
The basics were there in his writings. The Cross of Christ, a standard reference, is near to my desk to this day; as is his New Issues Facing Christians Today.
Behaviour mattered and his participation in missiological consultations such as the Willowbank Report, ‘Gospel and Culture’, encouraged sensitive contextual mission.
Tío Juan (Uncle John) was the term of endearment used to address him by South Americans. His wisdom was that of an uncle wise in life’s challenges and caring in speaking of it. His clear, rich vocabulary and straightforward biblical exposition was readily translated and engaged eager listeners so effectively that his books were translated into Spanish.
I recall him allowing others pass by him in a lunch queue. Gentle, warm, interested, humble: full of grace and truth.
Gracias, Tío Juan for the Bible, basics and behaviour.

John Harrower is Bishop of Tasmania and a Vice-president of EFAC Australia.

John Stott’s ministry was Christ-centred, Biblical, prayerful, personal, gracious, strategic, unifying, multiplying, world-engaging and international.(1)
Imagine a cadet in the early 1970s tramping the hills of Singleton in New South Wales to share pocket-sized tracts with another lone Christian during a rough and bawdy camp. That cadet was me, those little tracts were Becoming a Christian and Being a Christian,(2) and that other cadet went on to be a senior community leader. For many, our first encounter with John Stott was through his extraordinarily extensive literature ministry. It’s hard for us now to imagine just how little evangelical literature was available 50 years ago. Stott’s Basic Christianity soon became a classic, translated into many languages. It robustly
gives a defence of the faith in the face of modern criticism, while winningly commending it. The book is simultaneously an apologetic and an evangelistic work, as well as being a comprehensive foundation for discipleship. It was exactly what I needed at University.(3)
Others know John Stott through a conference, such as a Church Missionary Society Summer School, an Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students Annual Conference, or a convention at Mount Tambourine, Katoomba or Belgrave Heights. As a young Christian I was taken to hear his studies on Ephesians. They left an indelible impression on me. Stott set a high standard of Biblical exposition which engaged with contemporary issues. I can still remember Stott saying how he prayed daily ‘that he would be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18b), and how he regularly set aside time for prayer on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cycle. He was a clear and succinct preacher and teacher, characterised by his pithy and memorable headlines and outlines. His expositions were studded with many an eloquent turn of phrase. Illustrations were drawn from a wide spectrum. These often included references to etymology and word use in a range of ancient literature. Without being unduly prescriptive, his application was characterised by disciplined theological reflection. He argued that the preacher was to have the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other, and that the sermon needed to express the interaction.(4) Indeed, one exercise he gave preachers was to think through a theological response to the newspaper headlines each day.
John Chapman considers Stott’s greatest contribution to the Australian church was this modelling of expository preaching and the subsequent training it occasioned, in a range of contexts.(5) Chapman reports that following a Church Missionary Society Summer School in the late 1960s or early 1970s, Dudley Foord and he instituted the College of Preachers, where groups of ten clergy were trained at the residential conference centre, Gilbulla, in expository preaching.(6) One cannot assess the profound effect Stott’s exemplary preaching has thus had on Christian life in Australia and beyond. At the time the authority, infallibility and unity of the Scriptures was doubted by many churchmen, especially those in the academy. Biblical faith was regarded as fundamentalist, naive, uneducated and sentimental. Stott demonstrated that evangelical faith was intellectually credible, historically rooted, coherent and compelling, with major implications for the transformation of every aspect of the individual and society.(7) I was privileged to attend a Diocese of Sydney clergy conference where Stott modelled such exposition. It was hosted at my old school, where there were extensive grounds. After speaking, Stott would relax by searching out Australian birdlife at the end of an enormous telescope, with yours truly ‘providing security’ at a distance.
This brings me to a side of Stott which, on reflection, is frankly amazing, given his heavy and wide-ranging public ministries and responsibilities. Stott was wonderfully personable and gracious. This was both his character, but also a ministry strategy. Whenever our paths crossed, at a conference or an airport, he would always ask after my ministry, with an encyclopaedic memory and prayerful interest. He was the mentor of mentors: a 20th Century Simeon, whether with trainee clergy in the United Kingdom, with University students across the world, or with post-graduate theological students from the global south. This is now reflected in the ministry of Langham Partnership and in the intensive mentoring work that so characterises the ministries of the various International Fellowship of Evangelical Students groups today.(8)
Stott’s commitment to the development of character in Christian leaders was plainly evident in every aspect of his ministry. Almost 30 years since its publication, I Believe in Preaching(9) is still a favourite with Ridley preaching classes, partly because it has substantial chapters on the integrity and humility of the minister of the word.
The pairing of Stott’s rigorous Biblical mind with his humble and gracious character meant that he was used by God to bring together Christians from all over the world for cooperation in mission. This is an under-acknowledged and little known aspect of his ministry. Stott had a substantial role in crafting The Lausanne Covenant at the original Lausanne Congress in 1974.(10) This provided a theological basis for joint mission which the ecumenical movement plainly failed to achieve. The covenant privatized core issues, such as the uniqueness of Christ and the authority of the Scriptures, while naming and bounding secondary issues.(11) Out of the 1989 Lausanne Conference in Manilla, the Australian Lausanne Emerging Leaders in Evangelism network and conference was instituted. This developed into Arrow Leadership Australia, an interdenominational training program for emerging leaders. In a similar way, Stott’s work has brought together evangelicals in the Anglican Communion. He has provided them with resources and modelled a means of making a positive contribution for renewal and reform. Indeed, this very magazine and the organisation it represents probably wouldn’t exist if it were not for John Stott!
As I’ve reflected on John Stott’s influence on my life, I’ve realised how indebted I am to him, through his writing, teaching, ministry strategies and personal style.(12) Many of his commitments and priorities are my commitments and priorities. Future generations may not realise the source of their heritage and commitment to Biblical authority and exposition; to Biblically-founded and motivated engagement with the world; to mentoring and personal work; and to strategic ministry in universities and nations. Whether they are an ex-Hindu student worker in India; a Burmese Langham Scholar at Ridley Melbourne; a Sudanese pastor reading the Africa Biblical Commentary; or trainers at a Preaching Workshop in Papua New Guinea, all these friends are deeply indebted to Stott. This monumental legacy is in many ways unsung and taken for granted. My hunch is that that’s the way Stott would want it. Praise God!

Adrian Lane serves as Senior Lecturer in Ministry Skills and Church History at Ridley Melbourne. He is currently on a six-month secondment to the Mathew Hale Public Library, Brisbane, a ministry of the Simeon Association.

1. An abridged version of this tribute was initially given at the John Stott Memorial Service held at St Andrew’s Anglican Church, South Brisbane on the 21st August 2011, organised by the Queensland Branch of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion.
2. Becoming a Christian, InterVarsity Press, London, 1950; Being a Christian, InterVarsity Fellowship, London, 1957.
3. Basic Christianity, InterVarsity Press, London, 1958. Interestingly, John Arnold advises that the content of Basic Christianity is based on university addresses, including those given at the famous Sydney University mission, ‘What Think Ye of Christ?’ in 1958. It was during this mission that Stott lost his voice before the last address. Arnold states that Stott ‘croaked the gospel that night’. Nonetheless, the response was so significant Stott later remarked that on subsequent visits to Australia he never failed to meet someone converted that night, a clear testimony to the power of God in proclamation.
4. This is reflected in the title of the American edition of I Believe in Preaching, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1980, which is Between Two Worlds.
5. John Chapman, My Critique of Current Preaching, Compact Disc Recording, Croydon, NSW: Sydney Missionary and Bible College Graduates’ Preaching Conference, 2006. See also Chapman’s comments at the John Stott Memorial Service, St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral, Sydney, 28 August, 2011, www.sydneyanglicans.net.
6. Personal conversation, 29 August 2011.
7. See, for example, Your Mind Matters, InterVarsity Press, London, 1972; Christ the Controversialist, InterVarsity Press, London, 1973; Issues Facing Christians Today, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, Basingstoke, 1984; and The Radical Disciple, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 2010.
8. In Stott’s tradition, this ministry of mentoring was generally described as ‘personal work’. Stott’s emphasis on expository Bible study, both in public and private ministry, coupled with the process and personal ministry strategies of various American groups, such as Navigators and Lay Institute for Evangelism (Student Life), was a powerful fusion. It created a style of discipleship in University ministry that churches have been unable to replicate.
9. Op. cit.
10. The Lausanne Covenant, World Wide, Minneapolis, 1975. Stott served as Chairman of the Drafting Committee for the Lausanne Covenant, adopted at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974. The Covenant serves as a theological basis for the Lausanne movement, including subsequent Congresses in Manilla (1989) and Cape Town (2010). It has also been adopted by many other ministries for similar purposes.
11. More generally, however, it is only fair to note that many have challenged Stott’s position on annihilationism, and have considered him unclear on the priority and foundational nature of the gospel in relation to social concern.
12. Incidentally, Stott’s rare Biblical affirmation of the gift of singleness (1 Corinthians 7:7) and his example of positively using this gift for the extension of the kingdom have also been personally pastorally significant.

When I think of John Stott I think of Parish Preaching. More than anyone else in the past 60 years John Stott was the preeminent Prince of Preachers. John Stott will be noted for many other things but at heart he was a preacher. In particular he was a preacher in the local church. He didn’t move to the seminary or to the episcopacy. Today via the internet we can access anything anywhere but in spite of the limitations of his era, John’s preaching at All Souls Langham Place established a model of how to preach that has been emulated across the globe.
My first encounter with John was at an AFES National Conference in 1975 at Bathurst. John was the guest Bible Study leader and guided us through 6 magisterial studies in Ephesians. These studies were repeated in other places but became the basis for the Bible Speaks Today book God’s New Society. I grew up in a thoroughly evangelical suburban church where we heard the gospel preached every week. To hear the Scriptures expounded and reflected upon was a great personal breakthrough. I had experienced this at University but no one seemed to do it better than John Stott.
John Stott had the amazing capacity to open up the text in such a way that you heard God clearly speaking to you. All preachers aim to do this but some are especially gifted at it. John would always have a snappy introduction that picked up on some current issue or idea. He would then work his way through the passage through systematic exposition. Along the way he would either illustrate his point or apply it in some way. Often at the end he would give a mini response to a current theological controversy or textual issue. Behind it lay a depth of scholarship yet it was clear and accessible. John’s local church preaching went on week in and week out. When he spoke at Conventions he did what he did locally. This established a bench mark and an enticing vision of the importance and power of great expositional preaching.
In 1982 I was in my second year at Moore College and going through a rough patch. In the May break I had a week’s leave in Tasmania. During that week I read I Believe in Preaching by John Stott. It was a wonderful re-imagining of the vision of what God was calling me into. Stott retraced the Biblical material and then looked at what preachers have said about preaching. I’m not sure if I would have gone on into ordained ministry if it wasn’t for that week of inspiration with John Stott in Tasmania.
John Stott, more than anyone else, impacted the global church because of his own preaching but also for the model he established. This was matched by his integrity of life and tireless involvement in many ways in many places. He re-established for Anglicans the primacy of preaching in effective local church ministry. Many of us, from time to time, have preached John’s sermons! Many of us, myself included, probably would have struggled to know how to preach certain passages if it weren’t for John Stott. Most of us have never preached as well as John did. That doesn’t matter as long as we were faithful and God honoured what we strove to do. Much of the revival in evangelical Anglicanism that has taken place in these past 60 years can be traced back to the impact of John’s preaching. John Stott, Prince of Preachers.

Stephen Hale is Senior Minister at St Hilary’s Kew and Deputy Chairman of EFAC Australia.

I wish I could say that I have had a deep and life-long relationship with the Reverend Doctor John Stott and that his work has long influenced my thinking about scripture and church doctrine. Even better, I wish I could call him a friend. But alas, it is not so. However, I think I can safely say that John Stott would have happily considered me a sister in Christ and accepted my heart-felt appreciation for his life’s work and witness. He strikes me to have been a kind man, who somehow managed to write in a fashion that intertwined academic rigour with human warmth,
kindness and genuine humility. I find this a striking combination and indeed, as striking as the manner in which Jesus himself interprets the truth of scripture in the gospels. The Reverend Stott had a gift for speaking the truth in love and I consider him to have been a great blessing to the body of Christ.
In actual fact, John Stott only came into my life relatively recently. I dare say I am possibly one of the least qualified people to comment on the impact of his scholarship and preaching, since I have probably been exposed to about 0.5% of the works he so faithfully produced. So I don’t boast in my own knowledge; but here’s something I can boast in: it is a fact that it was John Stott’s book, The Cross of Christ, that first led me to understand, perhaps before I could accept it, that I was evangelical. I had never in my life had someone properly explain the atonement to me. The word ‘atonement’ was mostly ridiculed by the teachers and pastors that had ministered to me up to that point. This is not to disrespect any of my brothers and sisters in Christ, but to say, through the ministry I had received, I had developed questions that no one had ever answered in a way that had meaning for me: How could a loving God require the satisfaction of his wrath by such cruel means of suffering? What’s so important about Jesus shedding his own blood?
Coupled with my query about accepting a cruel image of God, I also had other concerns, which were becoming stronger, the more I studied scripture and grew in my knowledge of God. I wondered, ‘If Jesus’ death on the cross was really only the highest exemplar of God’s sacrificial love, what could it achieve? What could it change?’ If forgiveness was all the cross stood for, what did this add to God’s mercy reflected in the sacrificial system already employed by his people? I remember taking these questions to Richard Trist. I told him I wanted to understand how evangelicals understood the cross and he sent me straight to The Cross of Christ. John Stott fixed me good.
I read the book in two days and must have mentally cried out ‘yes’ about a hundred times. ‘Yes, yes, yes! That is what I believe.’ John Stott’s defence of the words ‘satisfaction’ and ‘substitution’: truth spoken in love and very convincing! Naked I stood in the face of my absolute and total reliance on Jesus Christ to pay the price for my sin that I could never pay, so that I could know my Father in heaven. John Stott gifted me with his truthful words and his heart of love for the Lord. What a blessing to us, that in-between pastoring his flock and long hours of study, he one day typed the following words.

‘We cannot escape the embarrassment of standing stark naked before God. It is no use our trying to cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig-leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness, see the divine substitute wearing our filthy rags instead of us, and allow him to clothe us with his own righteousness.’ (The Cross of Christ)

Heather Cetrangolo serves as a Curate (Children and Families) at St Thomas Anglican Church, Burwood, Melbourne.

I first encountered John Stott as a young Christian in the early 1970s by reading his books Basic Christianity and Understanding the Bible. These books helped me to develop a reasonable faith. As a science undergraduate I discovered that I didn’t have to discard my brain in order to believe.
A different encounter took place at an AFES national conference in Bathurst when I sat under his preaching for the first time. John’s clear exposition of Ephesians blew me away. He was the sort of preacher and teacher I wanted to be. Over the years his many books helped to shape my thinking and preaching and I continue to value works such as The Cross of Christ, Issues Facing Christians Today, Essentials, I Believe in Preaching and the Bible Speaks Today Commentaries.
It was in 1997 that my first personal encounter with John occurred. I had just moved with my family to London to work at All Souls, Langham Place. On the day we arrived the phone rang. My wife picked up the phone to hear the words: ‘It’s John Stott here. A warm welcome to London and a warm welcome to All Souls. I have been praying for you all.’ John then asked about the family and how we had coped with the travelling. After chatting over points for prayer he invited me to join him for afternoon tea in a few weeks’ time. As I put down the phone I was amazed that this world-famous author, preacher and Christian leader with so many demands on his time and so many people to see, took time to phone and wish me and my family well.
Over my time at All Souls I saw this generosity of spirit and humility of character time and time again. In many ways it is this side of John rather than his books and global leadership that has stuck with me and which I seek to emulate in my own life.
His simple attitude. When John retired as Rector of All Souls, he moved into a two-room flat behind the rectory in Weymouth Street. It was a comfortable flat but very basic—not what you might expect from someone of his stature. He ate, dressed and lived simply. He eschewed television, daily newspapers and the internet. In comparison to this my own life seems so often full of stuff and things that waste my time.
His enjoyment of the ordinary things in life. John appreciated many of the simple things that we take for granted: conversations, walks, reading, and of course his beloved bird-watching. An extravagance might be a trip to Leicester Square to see his favourite cinema genre—James Bond films!
He gave of himself to others. Whenever John preached at All Souls, he would greet people as they left the church. Inevitably some would make a fuss and insist on having photos taken or books autographed, yet John never showed contempt. He saw it as important to them and thus obliged with grace and dignity.
He was a man of prayer. Although his public prayer before preaching was the same it was never insincere : ‘Heavenly Father, we bow in your presence. May your Word be our rule, your Spirit our teacher, and your greater glory our supreme concern, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ His private times of prayer were the same. They began as soon as he awoke with the words: ‘Good morning Heavenly Father. Good morning Lord Jesus. Good morning Holy Spirit’ and were followed by meditation on the Bible and praying over long lists of people whom he knew from around the world. I was humbled one day when I realized that the reason he could ask me about each of my children by name, was that he had been praying for our family on one of his lists. Prayer for John was the hidden source of power.
As I reflect on John’s life I am grateful to God for so many things: his ability to preach and teach in such a way as to make the message of the Bible clear and applicable; his balanced approach to contentious issues that at times divide us; his call for evangelicals not to retreat into isolationism nor separatism but to engage with the wider church. But it was his godly character that challenges me the most. I could excuse myself from being like this by saying that John was simply an extraordinary man. But I am sure that John would point me away from himself to the Christ who calls me to follow and the Spirit who promises to empower. His message would be clear: rather than saying ‘I cannot’, I ought to be saying ‘why not?’.

Richard Trist is Dean of the Anglican Institute, Ridley Melbourne, and Secretary of EFAC Australia.

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